Letter from Spain

Issue section: 

As the Spanish state goes on the offensive against the Basque left and ETA, Manel Ros reports on developments since the ETA ceasefire ended in June.

In October 23 leading members of Batasuna, the main organisation of the Basque left, were arrested after leaving a secret meeting. They were detained and accused of belonging to ETA, the armed Basque organisation that struggles for independence - 17 were incarcerated, while the rest are awaiting trial.

These arrests are the latest in the crackdown by the Socialist Party (PSOE) led government on the left of the Basque independence movement since the end of the ceasefire in June 2007. The ceasefire had been proclaimed by ETA in March 2006 to facilitate talks over the Basque Country. But even then the government detained 70 activists from the very same organisation they were in talks with.

Detentions during the negotiations didn't just affect members of ETA. Juan Maria Olana, a leading member of an organisation supporting Basque prisoners, was also incarcerated and Arnaldo Otegui, a spokesperson for Batasuna, has been in jail since June. You can also add to that the pending macro-case called 18/98 which is a direct attack on freedom of expression and opinion and the right to freely associate in the Basque Country.

Since the beginning of the peace process, in an attempt to negotiate an agreement towards a final resolution of the conflict, Batasuna tried again and again to call for a meeting involving all the political parties of the Basque Country. At the same time they argued for another meeting between the government and ETA to put an end to hostilities. The government repeatedly blocked this possibility - their intentions never were to take the possibility of a real peace process seriously.

The government's response led to the end of the ceasefire. Once again the hopes of Basque and Spanish society were frustrated. The explanation for this failure is to be found in the politics of Prime Minister Zapatero and his party, the PSOE.

They are incapable of confronting the ideas of the right about "breaking up the Spanish nation". There are also two crucial arguments that the PSOE refuse to accept-the recognition of the left Basque independence movement as a valid negotiator and the recognition of the political nature of the conflict.

The oft repeated idea that the government is not ready to pay a "political price" removes the possibility of a democratic solution for the Basque people. It reduces the conflict to a technical process of pacification, denying any kind of compromise such as the transfer of Basque prisoners to prisons in the Basque Country.

Peace won't be attainable without negotiation with the Basque left and the recognition of the political roots of the conflict. However, this would not come from the PSOE, as they are happy with anti-democratic laws such as the one used to ban Batasuna and harass the left Basque movement.

The release of all members of Batasuna and other Basque organisations and also the repeal of the laws are prerequisite to any kind of democratic process in the Basque Country. The role of the alternative and combative left in the Spanish state should be to mobilise civil society with an independent political vision, which puts the right of self-determination for the Basque people above everything.

Manel Ros is a member of the Spanish revolutionary organisation En Lucha.